Asia Today: Sri Lanka expands curfew, closes gov’t offices

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Authorities in Sri Lanka have closed key government offices and further expanded a curfew in an attempt to contain a surging coronavirus outbreak.

The foreign ministry closed its consular affairs office for the week and suspended all services to prevent the public from congregating. It said Thursday it would only accept queries and documentation assistance related to deaths of Sri Lankans overseas, strictly by appointment.

Other departments providing services related to revenue, immigration, pensions, vehicle license and registrations also closed for the week, and a state-sponsored exhibition was canceled.

The outbreak that surfaced this week has quickly grown to 1,034 cases, and more than 2,000 other people have been asked to quarantine at home.

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In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:

Myanmar reported 1,012 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, just a day after setting a record daily total of 1,400. The country’s total confirmed cases is now 22,445, including 535 deaths after 25 new fatalities were reported. Since the beginning of the month, the country’s cases have risen by 56% and its death toll has risen by 67%, despite the imposition of tight lockdown measures in Yangon, the country’s biggest city, where the highest number of infections have been found. Myanmar had recorded just 353 virus cases as of the beginning of August, but an upsurge later that month in the western state of Rakhine quickly spread to other parts of the country. In a nationally televised speech on Monday, Myanmar’s leader, State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, urged people not to be too worried that daily increases in infections had climbed above 1,000. She said the government had acquired antigen test kits to detect cases more quickly. She acknowledged there was a shortage of beds in hospitals in some areas to isolate and treat patients, but said the health ministry was arranging more facilities.

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Hong Kong reported 18 new coronavirus infections on Thursday, sparking fears that the city may experience a rebound in cases as the number of locally transmitted infections continues to rise. Of the 18 infections, 14 were local, with at least one case having an unknown source of infection, according to health officials. Eleven of the local infections were linked to a home for the disabled, a day after the first resident was confirmed to have been infected. “The numbers are indeed very worrying,” said Constance Chan, director of Hong Kong’s department of health. In the last week, Hong Kong has seen clusters of infections linked to a bar, a school and pharmacies. The city’s health minister, Sophia Chan, said Thursday that the government is considering making it mandatory for people to be tested for the coronavirus, although she did not specify whether it would apply to all people or to specific groups. Hong Kong has reported a total of 5,162 infections, including 105 deaths.

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India has registered 78,524 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, driving its confirmed total to 6.8 million. The Health Ministry on Thursday also reported 971 deaths in the previous 24 hours, taking the death toll to 105,526. India’s confirmed daily cases have declined steadily for three weeks, from more than 86,000 in the last two weeks of September to an average of more than 70,000 cases so far this month. Earlier in September, daily cases averaged around 93,000. More than 1.1 million samples have been tested daily on an average so far in October, according to the Health Ministry.

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South Korea reported 69 new coronavirus cases, most of them in the Seoul region area where health workers are struggling to track transmissions linked to hospitals, churches, schools and an army unit. The figures released by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency on Thursday brought the national total to 24,422 cases, including 427 deaths. Forty-nine of the new cases were reported in the Seoul metropolitan area, home to about half of the country’s 51 million people. The region has been at the center of a coronavirus resurgence since mid-August.

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